WINTER OLYMPICS: Paula's family affair
PAULA Walker is determined to turn her second Winter Olympics into a real family affair after tragedy overshadowed her debut in Vancouver four years ago.
Trowbridge pilot Walker was cheered on her first two runs of the women's bobsleigh competition at the Sanki Sliding Center on Tuesday night by a Brit-pack including her mother Denise and grandmother Jean Holden.
It was the first time the pair had ever dared watch their daughter race - and they did so in memory of her father Paul, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer prior to Vancouver and died shortly after Walker won the world junior title in 2011.
Walker and brakewoman Rebekah Wilson are placed 12th at the halfway stage and, most importantly, fashioned two relatively serene runs which would not have unduly tested the nerves of her audience.
Paxcroft Mead pilot Walker said: "My mum doesn't even watch it on TV so it was a real new experience for her and my grandma, and it is really nice to have my family come out all this way to support us.
"My dad wasn't in Vancouver because he had terminal cancer, so I think it was my mum's mission to come for these Olympics. She wouldn't have it any other way.
"She has even told me she wants to go down in a bobsleigh. I popped over to see her and we watched Lamin (Deen in the two-man) race yesterday. I'm not sure what she's making of it all. I'm sure I'll soon find out."
The pair were slightly disappointed with their two runs, of which their second was marginally slower and which leaves them just over a quarter of a second off their stated aim of a top 10 place.
Wilson, who is making her Olympic debut, said: "The drive went really well - much better than in training. If we could get into the top 10 that would be a good result for us, because it is a really difficult track."
American pair Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams will take a healthy 0.23 seconds lead into the final day after setting a track record of 57.26secs on their opening run.
Reigning Olympic champions Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse are in silver medal position, three tenths of a second ahead of the second American sled of Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans.
Belgians Elfje Willemsen and Franziska Fritz were threatening to spring a major surprise in fourth place, just under half a second behind Greubel.
FOLLOW WALKER'S THIRD AND FOURTH RUNS AT WINTER OLYMPICS LIVE AT WILTSHIRETIMES.CO.UK/SPORT TOMORROW AFTERNOON